Germany creates its driverless car legislation

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Even though the legislation part of driverless vehicles was thought likely to be one of the biggest hurdles to get over in the drive to see piloted vehicles dominate our roadways, it’s actually been rather simple. Politicians in various parts of the world, including many US states and the UK have all given the go ahead for automated vehicles to take to the roads in large scale tests over the next few months. Now, to make sure it isn’t left behind, Germany has done the same, with the transport minster, Alexander Dobrindt, set to lay out guidelines of how driverless cars should be used on its roads.

To help Mr Dobrindt make his decisions on how exactly piloted vehicles should be allowed to operate on Germany’s roads – bearing in mind that the world famous Autobahn theoretically provides a new speed based challenge to driverless car makers – he’s recruited a committee of individuals from various fields, including industry, politics and law. It’s expected that the new group will be able to put something together by the Frankfurt auto show in September later this year.

As The Guardian explains, currently it’s pretty illegal to take automated cars on the road in Germany. The problem stems from a treaty signed way back in Vienna in 1968, which states that all vehicles on the roads need to be operated by a human at all times. Presumably this is to stop people from taking part in animal related shenanigans, or trying to create homebrew automated solutions and just letting them loose on the roads. It seems likely that along with the US and UK, Germany will soon ditch this near half century old piece of law, but before then it will need to figure out just the right mix of freedoms and restrictions so that the new driverless cars don’t cause any injuries to anyone and if they do, who exactly would be responsible.

Audi's piloted RS7 set an impressive time on the Hockenheim Formula 1 track

Audi’s piloted RS7 set an impressive time on the Hockenheim Formula 1 track

The new laws may also limit which roadways that the new robotic vehicles will be able to use. Dobrindt has already said that a section of the A9 Autobahn in Bavaria will be specifically used for automated vehicle testing, but that could potentially be opened up to other roads in the future. In-fact, it will need to be, otherwise German automated cars will only be able to drive at high speed on the motorway.

Still, we’ve seen some impressive demonstrations of high-speed automated vehicles before. Audi has previously managed to make its RS7 go around the Hockenheim Formula 1 track in times reminiscent of professional drivers. At times, it was able to hit speeds of up to 150 miles per hour without the onboard systems losing control. The impressive part however, is that it got better at it the more times it went round the track, just like a real driver would.

 

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Jon Martindale is an English author and journalist, who's written for a number of high-profile technology news outlets, covering everything from the latest hardware and software releases, to hacking scandals and online activism.